ABC News (Australia)
Photo: Cardinal George Pell compared the Catholic Church to a trucking company during his testimony. (AAP: Paul Miller)
Support groups for child sexual abuse victims have expressed their outrage after Cardinal George Pell’s testimony at the royal commission in Melbourne last night.
Cardinal Pell appeared at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse via videolink from the Vatican.
Saying it would not be appropriate for legal culpability to be “foisted” on church leaders, he drew an analogy between the Catholic Church and a trucking company, citing a hypothetical example of a case involving a woman who was molested by a truck driver.
“It would not be appropriate, because it’s contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Cardinal Pell said.
“Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation.
“If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.
“If in fact the authority figure has been remiss through bad preparation [or] bad procedures or been warned and done nothing or [done something] insufficient, then certainly the church official would be responsible.”
Truck analogy ‘outrageous’, ‘appalling’ and ‘offensive’
Dr Cathy Kezelman from Adults Surviving Child Abuse said the “outrageous” and “appalling” analogy could do a lot of damage.
“The victims are already in this process of being repeatedly traumatised. To have their experiences denied yet again … drives a knife into the wound and twists it yet again,” she said.
Nicky Davis from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was in the audience of the royal commission during Cardinal Pell’s comments.
She said the truck analogy left the audience “open mouthed in shock”.
“We were literally saying to each other, ‘Did he really just say that?’,” she said.
“He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors.
It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behaviour that is inexcusable.Nicky Davis
“It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behaviour that is inexcusable.”
Ms Davis said Cardinal Pell was trying to avoid liability by referring to the sovereignty of the Vatican.
“He’s basically saying ‘no, we’re a foreign state … you can’t hold us accountable’,” she said.
“If this foreign state is committing so many crimes on Australian soil against Australia’s most vulnerable citizens, why are we putting them in charge of providing social services to vulnerable people?”
The Australian Trucking Association said Cardinal Pell had insulted every truck driver in Australia.
“There are more than 170,000 professional truck drivers in Australia,” the chair of the association, Noelene Watson, said in a statement. “They have families and children. Cardinal Pell’s analogy is a deep insult to every one of them.”
Pell ‘never anticipated’ church abuse complaint numbers
In his testimony to the commission, Cardinal Pell said he was surprised by the number of complaints made in the lead-up to the introduction of the Melbourne Response to abuse within the Catholic Church.
The inquiry has been examining the Catholic Church’s Melbourne Response, which Cardinal Pell established when he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
Under the scheme, independent commissioners were appointed to investigate claims, a free counselling and support service known as Carelink was created, as well as a panel to provide ex-gratia compensation payments.
There was evidence something needed to be done to deal with this suffering.Cardinal George Pell
Once victims went to police they were no longer eligible for compensation.
“We never anticipated the volume of responses that would go on for years,” Cardinal Pell said.
“I was aware there were dozens of complaints.”
Cardinal Pell said he was aware of reports in newspapers that were “brought home to me very clearly”.
“There was evidence something needed to be done to deal with this suffering,” he said.
The commission has been considering a series of “systemic issues” including the independence of the compensation scheme, the criteria for determining compensation amounts and the independence of the process.
Cardinal George Pell insults truck drivers over remarks at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
August 22, 2014
TRUCK drivers around the country are up in arms over Cardinal George Pell’s comments at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The Chair of the Australian Trucking Association, Noelene Watson, said Cardinal Pell had publicly insulted every truck driver in Australia.
Mrs Watson was responding to Cardinal Pell’s comments at the Commission where he stated that the Catholic Church was no more responsible for priests who abuse children than a trucking company would be if they employed a driver who molested women.
NOT CO-OPERATING: Vatican refuses to release files of Australian paedophile priests
“There are more than 170,000 professional truck drivers in Australia. They have families and children. Cardinal Pell’s analogy is a deep insult to every one of them,” Mrs Watson said.
“These comments are a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the Royal Commission being faced by the Catholic Church and other institutions that deal with children.
“Cardinal Pell must realise that he cannot solve these problems by insulting Australia’s hardworking truck drivers, who deliver the goods we use every day.”
Adults Surviving Child Abuse president, Dr Cathy Kezelman, said Cardinal Pell’s comments were not helpful to victims of abuse.
“His comments were outrageous,” she told AAP on Friday.
He showed a lack of compassion, and “continues to duck and weave” she said.
“To have their (victims’) experiences denied yet again drives a knife into the wound and twists it,” she said.
During his video links Cardinal Pell accepted the church has a moral obligation to victims, but in terms of its legal responsibility the actions of its priests are not necessarily its fault.
Cardinal Pell did say if the church had been warned about a priest or had bad policies or procedures in place, “then certainly the church official would be responsible”.
Anthony Foster, the father of two girls raped by notorious abuser Father Kevin O’Donnell, said the comparison was clearly wrong.
“The analogy was just ludicrous,” he said.
Mr Foster said it “was unbelievable to watch this prince of the Catholic church making these ridiculous statements.”
“Yesterday was extremely tough for us,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.
“They knew that this perpetrator had assaulted other people back in 1958, that was admitted by the church lawyer yesterday.
“All the way through, they have fought tooth and nail, telling us they knew nothing, well, yesterday the truth came out.”
Mr Foster and his wife, Christine, won a $750,000 settlement from the Melbourne archdiocese after two of their daughters Emma and Kate were raped by a pedophile priest. Emma later took her own life.
Mr Foster repeated his claim that Cardinal Pell showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy” when they met to discuss the case in the 1990s.
In his statement to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Cardinal Pell said he had not tried to insult the Fosters.
“I am sorry for anything I did to upset them at this meeting,” he said.
The Vatican refuses to release files of Australian priests accused of abusing children
16 hours ago August 22, 2014
THE Vatican has refused to hand over the files of Australian priests accused of sex crimes to the child abuse royal commission.
Claiming the internal documents were the property of the Holy See, the Vatican argued the commission’s request was “neither possible nor appropriate”.
Reasons included ongoing church investigations, and that internal working documents were the sovereign property of the Holy See.
Cardinal George Pell, now working in Rome, was asked if he sought an assurance from the Vatican that any document the royal commission needed would be provided.
“That is correct,” Cardinal Pell told the commission via video-link today.
“I suppose in retrospect there would be some discussion over what ‘any document’ meant.” Cardinal Pell said specific requests about cases would be more likely to succeed than what he described as an “ambit claim” for large numbers of documents.
A letter from the royal commission to the Vatican said it needed access to documents if it was to fulfil its terms of references. “It is essential that the royal commission understand the nature and extent of the communications between those congregations and the Holy See in relation to child sexual abuse complaints about Australian clerics,” the letter said.
Cardinal Pell said the Vatican had provided 5000 pages of documents in relation to specific requests.
“But in following international convention they will not provide internal working documents of another sovereign state,” he said. Cardinal Pell said he thought the royal commission’s request for documents relating to each case was “unreasonable”.
“Overwhelmingly every document that is held in Rome exists here … I am not aware of exceptions — overwhelmingly they are available in Australia,” he said.
A letter from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State said finding every file on accused Australian priests would be a substantial burden, “inconsistent with international practice”.
“The Catholic Church is no more legally responsible for priests who abuse children than a trucking company which employs a driver who molests women,” a defiant Cardinal Pell said.
Victims’ families were outraged at his comments, branding it as “a ludicrous comparison.”
Even the chair of the child abuse royal commission thinks the situation is quite different when it comes to a priest getting access to a child.
Cardinal Pell accepts the church has a moral obligation to victims, but when it comes to its legal responsibility, the actions of its priests are not necessarily its fault.
“If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don’t think it’s appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Cardinal Pell told the commission via video link from Rome on Thursday.
But Cardinal Pell said if the church had been warned about a priest or had bad policies or procedures in place, “then certainly the church official would be responsible”.
Anthony Foster, the father of two girls raped by a paedophile priest, said the comparison was clearly wrong.
“The truck driver analogy was just absurd, ludicrous, and it was nowhere near a proper analogy to the Catholic Church,” Mr Foster told reporters.
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said priests got access to children with the parents’ consent, unlike truck drivers. “The relationship between the priest and a child is quite different to that between the truck driver and the casual passenger, isn’t it?” he asked Cardinal Pell.
“Yes, I would certainly concede that,” Cardinal Pell responded. Cardinal Pell said the Melbourne archdiocese strove to meet its moral obligations to abuse victims by setting up the Melbourne Response in 1996, the first comprehensive scheme in Australia to deal with clergy abuse allegations which included determining compensation payments.
“We did not admit that there was a legal obligation but that, in practice, in the compensation panel we fully accepted our moral responsibility towards those who had suffered,” he said.